Tuesday, January 24, 2017

7 Tips for Handlings Kids on Long Flights

Having recently travelled between Canada and India, with two toddlers, here's seven my tips to keep your kids entertained (and yourselves sane) during long haul flights.

1. Travel as light as possible

This is a general advice, but particularly suitable for travelling with kids. Just because you get two suitcases per person, doesn't mean you need to take two suitcases per person.

Remember, one parent will be taking care of the kids. The other parent will be taking care of the luggage. If you have ten suitcases, good luck. Our rule for four people was that we would take two suitcases full of our clothes etc. to India, and also carry two additional suitcases (empty) to bring stuff back. Everything (and that includes hand luggage, strollers etc.) should fit on two trolleys. We basically took half our quota and it made life so much easier.

2. Check everything in

When you have a screaming baby upset at something or the other, with the older brother angry because the younger one has taken his toy, and you are trying to go through security and taking your belt and shoes off, you don't want to deal with three carry-ons and two backpacks. Whatever you can, check it in. Obviously this is easier if you have less luggage over all to begin with (see #1).

3. Make sure to have extra set of clothes on you in the cabin

This would be in the backpack or carryon you took on board. There should be one extra set of clothes for everyone. For kids and for yourself as kids can pee on you (don't ask).

4. Dollar store sticker books are your friend

We took lots of activity books such as sticker books and colouring books that we bought from the dollar store. Kept the kids engaged for hours and you can throw way the book when done. We also took a few of their favourite toys, as well as loaded up the tablet with their favourite movies and TV shows. Bottom line: you have to keep your kids busy.

5. Bassinet seats are great

Try to get the bassinet seats (I called up Emirates to book seats on phone) even if you don't need the bassinet, as you still get the extra leg space. This is particularly useful if one of your children is under the age of two and doesn't have a seat of their own.

6. Snacks and Biscuits are meals too

Children usually don't like plane food (heck some adults don't either, and I don't blame them if it's Air Canada). So even if you ordered the special child meal, don't be upset if your child takes a bite or two and then proclaims "I'm done". Have lots of snacks, crackers, chocolates, Kinder Surprise etc. whatever junk foods the kids love. A Kinder Surprise (or called Kinder Joy in India) has the additional bonus of also being a toy. #keepthembusy

7. Relax

Remember, despite all of your best efforts, there will be a time they will cry and shout. Don't worry about it and don't worry about what anyone else things. Just try and tell yourselves "five more hours" and relax.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Why Emirates Continues To Beat Air Canada Hands Down

I recently had the opportunity to fly both Air Canada and Emirates. As some one whose work took him all over North America a few years ago I have experienced almost all of the North American airlines. I was also familiar with Etihad and Emirates, flying both regularly to UAE some time back. This time my journey gave me the opportunity to compare both Air Canada's current international experience, and Emirates' world famous hospitality first hand.

Verdict: Emirates by an overwhelming margin. It's not even close.

The Experience

As soon as you walk into the Emirates A380 you feel it. It's a more refined, high end, customer service oriented experience. The colours are brighter, the atmosphere more welcoming and the attention is on your comfort. And I am talking about Economy. Air Canada's first class is not even in the same class as Emirates' first class.

Compare this interior to Air Canada's dark and gloomy design.

 Air Canada's colours seemed to be picked with an eye on functionality. Which is the easiest to clean, and will hide stains the best, and so on. Emirates colours are bright and lively.

Another big difference, and perhaps the most important one, between Air Canada and Emirates is the flight crew. Emirates has a much younger group, and therefore more energetic and eager to go the extra mile. They are fit, pretty to look at and even smile at you when you ask for an extra glass of water. Air Canada has an older group of flight crew who do their job mechanically. They don't seem to take any pleasure in doing their work. Anything extra results in a grumpy frown.

And it's the little touches on Emirates that makes it a winner. As soon as the aircraft took off, one stewardess went around giving toys to all the little children on board. My son had the whole collection of the flight animals once our journey was over. Not only that, when he told them he already had one of the toys, they actually took the time to search and bring back the one missing toy that completed his collection.

Food and Entertainment

First of all, Emirates served all Halal meals. That itself makes it a winner. Second, their food is actually tasty. Air Canada serves rubber. And even their presentation of the said rubber is typical Air Canada. Functional. Mechanical. It Works So Shut Up And Eat It.

I mean they are also flying direct to Dubai, and they cannot serve a Halal meal? Or even a decent meal? Their Muslim meal is a potato.

Now let's talk movies. It's a long flight. You want to watch a lot of movies or TV shows. Air Canada has a huge section on ... wait for it ... Air Canada. Their Bollywood selection is, wait for it, TWO movies. That's it. And one of them is a Salman Khan movie so that doesn't count.

And I am not even getting into other things such as check in experience, boarding experience (a scrum on Air Canada, orderly on Emirates) and others.

Seriously Air Canada needs to up its game big time if it wants to compete on the Dubai sector. I actually don't mind paying a premium just for the better service on Emirates. And to think they are the best airlines in North America!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Should Kids Be Banned From First Class?

As a dad who just flew halfway across the world with two young boys, I can tell you that flying with kids isn't easy. While the older one kept himself busy with movies and games and toys (thank you Emirates!), the younger one couldn't understand why he was cooped in that small place without any seat (that's why we flew when you are less than two, kid, coz it's cheaper!).

I think 8 hours was our longest flight (Toronto to London) and it was the maximum we could really handle. We broke up our flight to India into pit stops. Couple of days in London, some days in Dubai, and then to India, and same on the way back. And I think this kept us sane; we wouldn't have been able to handle a 15 hour direct flight back with a screaming infant. And then a screaming toddler because the screaming infant bit him. Fun!

So when I read on the news about a bunch of passengers miffed about a crying baby in first class (and Delta's awful reaction to that), I could understand. You paid $10,000 to ride first class, and you want to ride in comfort. Screaming baby, especially someone else's screaming baby, does not equal comfort. Though if you paid that much for a Delta seat of all airlines I really have to question your logic, I mean Delta?!!

But you know what, deal with it. You paid for your seat, not someone else's. An aircraft is a shared place and there's all types of people. Just like the uncle who keeps burping in the mosque (and who I really want to take out ban, but can't), you have to tolerate noises from other folks that are discomforting to you.

One flight I spent next to someone who wouldn't take the hint and kept trying to make conversation with me (in case you can't tell, I am an introvert kind of person on a flight, and also not on a flight). Another time this lady behind me did nothing to control her wild toddler who kept kicking my seat. That's what goes on in a public space - you have to deal with inconveniences.

I have noticed this same trend go to other discussions, such as the insane proposal to ban strollers on public transit. Now, granted, some strollers look like SUVs, and some inconsiderate moms really just "park" their stroller at the entrance while blocking the pathway on the bus for others, but most are simply ordinary folks trying to use the public transit just like you and me.

I am often trying to sleep on the subway ride home, but sometimes there's two chatterboxes who sit adjacent to me and talk in a loud voice all the way. I mean, like, you know, it's like ... what the hell .. you spend the entire Islington to Kennedy talking about nothing. But you can't really start implementing "quiet zones" on the TTC subways.

So if a parent wants to pay and take their screaming kid on first class, why not. Deal with it.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Western Canada Diaries - The Complete List

Update: For 2019 links, scroll to the bottom.


Here's a total complete list of all my posts regarding my great Western Canada road trip of 2016. If you are thinking of visiting the Rockies, or travelling to BC, you may find these links useful. 

This was a rough map of our travels.

- General Introduction
- Olympic Plaza
- Nose Hill Park, Chestermere and Peace Bridge

Banff & Jasper
- General Planning for Banff & Jasper
- Banff Gondola (Sulphur Mountain)
- Lake Minnewanka Cruise
- Bow Falls & Vermilion Lakes
- Lake Louise & Moraine Lake
- Icefields Parkway
- Lake Peyto and Bow Summit Lookout
- The Crossing Resort
- Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure and Skywalk

A visit to the capital of Alberta, and the West Edmonton Mall (once the largest mall in the world) and City Hall.

Around an hour and half drive north east of Calgary lies the town of Drumheller, also known as the Dinosaur Capital of the World, or Dinosaur Valley.

Recalling our journey through Canada's deadliest highway, Route 99's Duffey Lake Road, and a pit stop at Whistler.

- The Capilano Suspension Bridge
- Stanley Park
- Other highlights of Vancouver

A trip to this beautiful, historical city on Vancouver Island, and nearby attractions such as the Butchart Gardens.